Given the genre’s praise for the individual, the concept of companionship, family, and black metal should ideologically mix about as well as gin and milk. From Burzum’s night clad "Dunkelheit" (or "Burzum," for the initiated) to the lonesome coffin cries of Darkthrone's "Under a Funeral Moon", black metal’s second wave onward has been fodder for the antisocial. However, where would we be without our friends? Our family?

Jimmy Stewart’s Clarence very eloquently wrote, "No one is a failure who has friends," and it’s true. Even the most evil, blasphemous black metal practitioner has someone at their left hand, but interpersonal relationships outside of a ritual sense seem to still be taboo for the most part.

Breaking the silence, Panopticon’s A Lunn spoke of his longtime friendship with Falls of Rauros in their 2014 split, the aptly titled Brotherhood. Two years later, the talk of companionship with one’s comrades and family is silent again (outside of certain Fullmoon Productions forums inside jokes). Lucky for us, Lunn’s family is wide and his friendships remain ever close. In this new split with Germany’s Waldgeflüster, we are given a heavy dose of passionate, heartfelt atmospheric black metal - some of the best I’ve heard from either group.

I’ve always felt the strongest split releases either feature either 1) two extremely different genres, one acting as a foil to the other, or 2) two strong, individually defined examples of a specific subgenre of music. In this case, both Waldgeflüster and Panopticon offer their own takes on melodic, progressive black metal expanse: odes to their own kinship and kin.

Waldgeflüster opens with the lengthy "Der Traumschänder." Fueled by adrenaline, heartache, and distress, mastermind Winterherz’s newly expanded lineup whirls through nearly 13 glorious minutes of dramatic black metal euphoria. Searing, desperate, and beautiful, "Der Traumschänder" tastefully weaves distant influences into a beautiful, cohesive form. A faithful cover of Panopticon’s "Norwegian Nights", though painted in Waldgeflüster’s unique shade of grey, closes the German’s half - a sincere dedication to the kinship between A Lunn and Winterherz and the memory of drinking in the Norwegian mountains manifested in a delicate ballad.

Though I tend to pick and choose favorites out of Panopticon records, Lunn’s talent is unquestionable and I can’t help but get goosebumps at those right moments. "Håkan's Song" is one of those moments stretched at length. Dedicated to his firstborn, Håkan, this song is an affirmation of a father’s love for his son, and the passion he feels is more than adequately communicated. Emerging at a full gallop, Lunn’s strong melodic sense builds upon a strong black metal core with elements of Rapture-styled dark metal, post-hardcore, and melodic death metal, all before dwindling into a delicate, soft, almost joyous lullaby. You can even hear recordings of an infant Håkan cooing; I don’t think black metal is really prepared for such a stark, emotionally nude moment of tenderness. The song ends with a dramatic, bombastic climax: Lunn proclaims, "All I hope for is to watch you grow."

Panopticon closes with his own tribute to Waldgeflüster: a cover of their "Trauerweide II", but with his own uniquely Appalachian folk twist, utilizing banjo and slide guitar.

The union of Panopticon and Waldgeflüster is a survey of the beauty and rage of black metal in the new millennium. I tend to use the "two sides of the same coin" phrase when it comes to splits like these, but these two acts manage to maintain their own identities while simultaneously making minor tributes to each other in a way which is both challenging and heartfelt. This salute to Lunn and Winterherz’s lasting friendship, as well as Lunn’s adoration for his son, is a graceful ideological challenge: you don’t have to be alone, it is okay to embrace the love of others. It’s 2016 - we don’t have to be nihilists. At least not all the time.

Panopticon/Waldgeflüster is slated for a March 11 release on Nordvis and Bindrune Recordings. Read some heartfelt words from the performers and have an exclusive listen of this split below. Be sure to preorder your copy - support your favorite artists and labels!

From the bands:

"My tracks for the split were recorded over a pretty long period of time. The original riffs for "Håkan's song" were written during the original demo sessions for "Roads to the North," much of which was written back in Kentucky in 2011. The song was revisited after the "Roads" sessions and it was recorded off an on throughout that Winter. I wrapped up tracking for that and started on the demos for "Autumn Eternal" while Spenser [Morris] mixed the song. The tracking for it was unique because I didn't do any direct in recording or re-amping or any of that stuff. I used my amps for my live guitar tone (the only other record I have done that with since "Collapse" with the split with Falls of Rauros).

Lyrically, I didn't publish the lyrics again as they are very personal. The lyrics are about all the amazing things becoming a father has taught me. My oldest son, Håkan, is the inspiration for the song and I am sure both of my boys will be inspirations to me for many years to come.

As for the cover… the idea came about after doing some pretty heavy drinking with Jan, a.k.a Winterherz, from Waldgeflüster, who is a very dear friend of mine. We have been such close friends for many years and been supporters of one another's music, it made perfect sense to just choose a song and do it in our own way. In a lot of ways, we show up either in spirit,subject matter/context or even as guest musicians on each other's albums, so it was awesome—and an honor!—to interpret one of his songs in my own way. Note the bottle opening at the beginning of the song...it’s a beer that Jan and I love to drink when we hang out, Aecht Schlenkerla's helles lagerbier, haha."

—A. Lunn, Panopticon

"Finally we can share this split with the world. Something that was planned about 5 years ago, when I first met Austin in Norway, who should become one of my closest friends over the next years. I will always remember when this tattooed metal dude and his lovely wife picked us up at the airport in Oslo and after this first weird, "Hey how are you, fine, etc.", connected right away. For the next hour we talked about music while driving back to their place. Austin showed me so much good stuff that I never heard of. We two got pretty drunk in the evening, one thing led to another, and finally it ended with these famous musician's words: ‘We should do a (insert band/split/project/album) together.’ So that's when the idea for this split was born. Most of the time those plans made while being drunk are never realized, but Austin and I stayed on it, so now 5 years later we can present this album to you. This release tells of friendship, woods, shared beers and growing older and it means a lot to me. I will always be grateful for your friendship, Mr. Lunn."

—Winterherz, Waldgeflüster
—Jon Rosenthal



Follow Panopticon on Bandcamp and Facebook (the latter of which is curated by Bindrune Recordings.

Follow Waldgeflüster on Bandcamp, Facebook, and Twitter.


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